China’s National People’s Congress is in full swing. It is full of what has come to be expected of Chinese politics and media, namely scripted questions and answers. In general, no real information is exchanged, certainly nothing that the Communist Party doesn’t want the people or the world to know. This all changed with a simple act, an eye roll.
Liang Xiangyi a reporter for Yicai, a Shanghai-based financial news network. Made a face that would likely be made by any real journalist. While I don’t know if she is a good journalist or not, she seemed to have no respect for a colleague who was throwing the slowest softball pitch at a Chinese politician, which seems to be the norm in Chinese journalism now.
Liang started with a minor eye roll, then looked the reporter up and down, and finally gave her an epic eye roll complete with a nearly 180 degree, diva inspired head turn. Please go watch the video, it’s glorious.
While this seems like it may not be a huge deal, it shows us a lot about the current state of affairs in China, especially when it come to the media, the government, and their relationship with one another.
It shows how scripted questions are. Most questions are carefully screened before they are asked. Media organizations know this, so if they want to get on air and thus boost ratings they need to do their best to craft questions that make the party look good.
This action is probably something many around the world would do if they listened to the questions that go on in Chinese media. I am certain that even a number of informed Chinese citizens would love to do this if they weren’t so afraid of their government.
This can be seen in the immediate response that Chinese netizens had on Weibo, essentially a Twitter clone for China, because of course Twitter is banned. People created GIFs, memes, and even some hilarious recreations. However, this leads us to the next instance of Chinese censorship. The government quickly began taking posts down.
This sort of action should come as no surprise to those who follow the CPP or the nation in general with any regularity. China has long been a country of censorship. Almost everyone knows about the great firewall. Though recently under Xi’s leadership, internet censorship has been growing even tighter.
China is now requiring many users to apply for new online accounts with their real names, eliminating any chance at anonymity. They have also been trying to root out any access to VPNs, which are one of the only ways that citizens can gain access to information not first vetted by the Party, it was the only way I could stay in contact with my friends in China that was not monitored by the CCP.
Recently the Chinese government has also been cracking down on foreign influence. Getting rid of numerous foreign TV shows and movies online. They don’t want people to get it in their heads that maybe they should wield some power in society. Though this is not the only crackdown on foreigners in the country.
Recently it was announced that in the capital, Beijing, in certain districts, no more than 10 foreigners would be able to gather together in an establishment. This is because the People’s congress is ongoing and the government fears that these groups could result in push back against government control, perhaps an apt assessment as it seems even sectors of the Chinese media have grown tired of the authoritarian facade.
This is something that both those in China and the outside world need to work to actively combat. China, in some ways, is following in the path of North Korea, though to be fair the Chinese government is much more open, especially in the area of economics to discussions with other global leaders. We can’t allow the world to become more sectioned off because of dictatorial regimes.
As a final note, I would like to mention my current base of operations, Taiwan. Taiwan is a nation that is often seen as part of China, when people don’t think that you are saying Thailand. This conflation is simply because the Communist Party says so, but why would you have any reason to trust the CPP with all we have learned about them?
Taiwan is actually the exact opposite of China when it comes to government control and media. Taiwan actually has the highest level of press freedom in all of Asia, based on a World Press Freedom Index evaluation.
Not only this, but people in Taiwan are free to protest the government, and thankfully they do, all the time. There is almost never a day when there is not a protest going on in some part of this small, beautiful island.
Elections are free and open, not to mention that there is more than one party.
This being said, there are certainly issues with Taiwan and its government, but they are no comparison to China.
One last note, Taiwan was recently listed at the happiest country in East Asia, and third in all of Asia. Taiwan ranks 26th overall. China ranks a full 60 positions lower. However, the WHR still refers to Taiwan as a “province of China,” a choice that enrages me to no end.
This an many other obvious signs show that Taiwan and China are two completely separate nations. People, especially in the US, need to start taking note of this.
The purpose of this article is not to deride Chinese people. Many of them are doing the best with what they have. I have great friends that are from or currently live in China. The point of this is to make the world a more honest, open and democratic place and that only happens when people pay attention and take action. The world needs to hold the Chinese Communist Party accountable for its actions. They also need to help support Taiwan in its independence.